Tip: Know How To “Pull a Garbo”

by cv harquail on April 20, 2012

“I Vant to Be Alone” ~ Greta Garbo

As the famous film actress explained, sometimes a wo/man needs a break.


A grown-up’s “time out”.

A moment of quiet, in her own kitchen, with a cup of tea and no one asking her to explain yet again how the microwave works.

You’ve been there, I know. We all have.

Interestingly, when Garbo said she wanted to be alone, no one around Garbo took it personally. Instead, they saw it as part of her glamour, her mystery, her savoir faire. They thought her abiity to state her need, clearly and simply, made her cool.

Even better, they gave Garbo that time to herself.

When it’s becoming overwhelming and you need some time to yourself to decompress, “pull a Garbo”.

Tell your au pair that you just want some time to yourself.

Explain that it’s a Garbo thing, a way for you to sustain your glamour and your mystery as a host mom.

If your au pair knows you want to be alone, and understands that you need to be alone, s/he’s more likely to leave you alone.

And you can enjoy that damn People magazine without anyone asking whether you really think Jennifer Anniston is pregnant.



OB Mom April 23, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Will this work with our spouses and kids too?

Should be working April 23, 2012 at 4:46 pm

That was my thought–the au pair is the LEAST of my problems when I want to pull a Garbo!

Taking a Computer Lunch April 23, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Mine, too. I once asked DH to take the kids out so I could spend the afternoon cleaning the house. They were gone for an hour! I once had a great four days – we were in-between APs, the kids were at sleep-away camp, and DH got sent out of town on business. Not that was a Garbo week!

NE mom April 24, 2012 at 3:03 pm

I actually include a section in my handbook about my spouse’s and my need for “Garbo” time, particularly at night. I say that we use our evenings to recharge and politely make it clear that the AP shouldn’t expect to hang out with us in the evening after the kids are in bed. We also specifically seek out self-starting, social APs who will make a group of friends quickly and not feel put out by my husband’s and my “introverted” tendencies. (Don’t get me wrong, though, we are social butterflies… which makes quiet evenings at home all the more valuable!) And we have a great set up in the AP suite with a couch, tv, small kitchen so she can entertain friends there.

HM Pippa May 3, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Try reading the “Need Some Advice?” section (click the box on the top of the page).

Secondtimearound May 5, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Thank you for that! After reading NE moms post, i immitiately went to my “guidebook in progress” and added a “garbotime” session.

Our last au pair was super social (and homesick with very little network here) and I was so pregnant and so ready for being just me! Everytime I opened the frigde, she popped up behind it. Everytime I wanted to snack in the kitchen, she was there. When I tried to hide from everyone in front of the TV, she came with her laptop so she could sit beside me. Everwhere I was in the house I heared her talking to her family on Skype! GAAH!
I am a mother and I need garbo-time!

DCMomof3 May 5, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Skype has certainly opened up a world of new people in the house via au pairs. I’ve had au pairs who walk around with their mom or boyfriend on the laptop and have running commentary between what is going on in the house and the skype-ee at home. Maybe I am just OLD, but in my day, when you went abroad, you were actually abroad. As in gone with little to no communication with friends and family at home. The live commentary through the computer is too much for me. Now I just tell the au pairs this. I try to encourage them not to spend too much time on skype and make it perfectly clear that I do not want to see mom, boyfriend or anybody else on skype unless its very, very quick.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 5, 2012 at 10:04 pm

While I generally agree with you, I think the directness of contact makes life much easier. DH and I lived in separate European countries for a year, when telephone contact was difficult and expensive. While we have great letters (somewhere in house), Skype would have been fantastic!

We encourage our au pairs to show their families our house on Skype, so they can see where we live, and to give a sense of how (little) we decorated at Christmas.

But I also agree that Skype can be a crutch and an excuse to stay indoors and not make full use of one’s limited time in the U.S. In my experience, the personality of the AP plays a big role, although in the case of a Brazilian AP it just never occurred to her that summer was endless and that she missed it by staying indoors – I think she extended with us in part to experience it in her 2nd year!

INTJ Au Pair May 15, 2012 at 10:17 am

As I was reading this post about host moms wanting to “pull a Garbo”, I thought of a quick question to host moms and dads.
I am an INTJ (INTJ means Introversion, iNtuition, Thinking, Judgment and is an abbreviation used in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to refer to one of the sixteen personality types) and I’m filling out the application to be an au pair in USA. I took the MBTI test several times just to be sure and I am an INTJ. Would you hire an INTJ au pair? I mean, we also like to “pull a Garbo” from time to time ’cause we need some quiet time by ourselves. And we usually tend to ignore social rituals to put others at ease, like, laughing at everybody’s jokes and most of all, we don’t like to party. We don’t do that. But we also don’t do anything irracional. We tend to find some logic on what we do and we think A LOT before doing something. I guess that’s an advantage, but, how host parents would see an au pair like that?
So, my question from the beggining is; would you hire an INTJ Au Pair?

Pokermom May 15, 2012 at 3:48 pm

I think it’s awesome that you took the test. My au pair also had hers done but it never came up during our interviews. I don’t know how much other families put that in their screening processes. I know for us first and foremost you have to be open to special needs and then we look at education/current jobs and then personality. I may have to ask about the Myers Briggs next time around. And, I would take a second look at you because I am also INTJ. :)

INTJ Au Pair May 15, 2012 at 9:40 pm

First of all, thanks for the answer, Pokermom. Second, I already sympathize with you because you’re also an INTJ :) Third, besides my references, I’m willing to learn about special needs and other types of cases (there’s a little boy in my church who has special needs and I’ve been taking care of him in sunday school for a few months now. It’s been a blessing). The other thing that bugs me out and makes me feel nervous about being an Au Pair is that I’m 18 (by the time I fill out my application I’ll be 19) and I have my doubts if families are secure about that age. I’ve read here that some host families like younger girls because they want to be a part of the family, but I’m not really sure about that. What do you think?
Again, thank you.

anna May 15, 2012 at 11:02 pm

with 19 you are considred as a very young au pair! we have au pairs here age 21 and up. so don`t worrie. 19 is a great age!

anna May 15, 2012 at 11:03 pm


Pokermom May 15, 2012 at 11:38 pm

You are welcome. I think the age thing really varies by family. It’s a total no go for some, but for others they don’t mind. I think the best advice I can give to you is to really think about what you want to tell your potential host family. I’d put all of what you said about your personality type, your experiences, the not interested in partying and see what happens. I bet you get snapped up!

Taking a Computer Lunch May 16, 2012 at 7:07 am

I would say that you would have a good chance of matching with active special needs experience, regardless of your personality type. As the parent of a special needs teenager, I look for au pairs who are more than special needs willing and have demonstrated experience (especially if it lasts more than 2 weeks to fill a hole in a resume).

As an extreme extrovert, I do far better with outgoing APs, but my DH, who is on the line between I and E, is the one who has grilled the introverts who have shared our home.

INTJ Au Pair May 16, 2012 at 10:47 am

Thank you all for the interesting answers! I will improve my experience, then, before becoming an AuPair! Special needs is something I find interesting to learn about and maybe I will focus on it. I mean, how to take care of this peculiar type of kids. Because they are, indeed, very special in a good way and I have a slightly idea of how difficult it is.

Single HM July 3, 2012 at 1:25 pm

I’m taking the next few days as Garbo time. The kids are with their father and the AP is at the beach. Feels GREAT!!!

I think it’s essential to have mental-health days from family and AP…makes me a better/happier person!

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